GABRIEL ( Γαβριήλ, "man of God"):

With Michael, Gabriel is mentioned by name in the Book of Daniel, where he explains to Daniel his visions (Dan. viii. 16-26, ix. 21-27). He appears to Zacharias, and announces to Mary that she is about to have a son whose name shall be "Jesus" (Luke i. 19-31). Gabriel is one of the four angels that stand at the four sides of God's throne and serve as guardian angels of the four parts of the globe (Enoch, ix. 1; comp. Kautzsch, "Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments," ii. 240, note). The four angels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, who are still invoked in the evening prayer, are often mentioned together (Enoch, xl. 6, liv. 6; Sibyllines, ii. 214 et seq.; "Legend of Zechariah," vi. 2-6, in Lüken, "Michael: Eine Darstellung und Vergleichung der Jüdischen und Morgenländisch-Christlichen Tradition vom Erzengel Michael," p. 122, Göttingen, 1898). The four names also occur on a golden tablet found in the tomb of the wife of Emperor Honorius (Kopp, "Palæographia Critica," iii., § 158; "Apocryphische Fragen des Bartholomeus," in Lüken, l.c. p. 114; "Zauberpapyri," in Lüken, l.c. p. 71). In other passages seven archangels are mentioned, among them Gabriel (Tobit xii. 15, and elsewhere). But he is most often mentioned together with Michael, whom he follows in rank. A Gnostic gem bears the inscription in Greek: "Michael thehighest, Gabriel the mightiest" (Kopp, l.c. iv., §, 766). The three angels that appeared to Abraham (Gen. xviii.) were Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; Michael, as the greatest, walked in the middle, with Gabriel to his right and Raphael to his left (Yoma 37a). Michael stands at the right hand of God, Gabriel at His left (Jellinek, "B. H." v. 166). Throughout Jewish literature Michael appears as an angel of a higher degree, as may be seen in the passages quoted below. Gabriel has the form of a man (Dan. viii. 15, ix. 21), and is, according to the Talmud, the "man clothed with linen" mentioned in Ezek. ix. 3 and x. 2 (Yoma 77a).

Represents Fire.

Michael is snow, Gabriel is fire (Lüken, l.c. p. 55; comp. Yoma 21b, bottom). Nevertheless, it is the prince of fire and not the prince of ice that is commissioned to rescue Abraham as well as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fiery furnace (Pes. 118a; Ex. R. xviii. and parallel passage). In a single passage only (Targ. Job xxv. 2), Michael is called the prince of fire, and Gabriel the prince of water. As prince of fire Gabriel is also prince of the ripening of fruits (Sanh. 95b). As an angel representing an element of nature he is also connected with the metals: Gabriel is gold (the color of fire), Michael is silver (snow), Uriel is copper (Yalḳ., Ḥadash, s.v. "Gabriel," No.75). Gabriel, girded like a metal-worker, shows Moses how to make the candlestick (Men. 29a). He has wings, like all the angels, but while Michael reaches the earth in one flight, Gabriel requires two (Ber. 4b, bottom).

Activities and Qualities.

Michael and Gabriel often work together (see Pes. 55a; Lüken, l.c. p. 86, note 1; ib. p. 109, bottom; Origen, "Contra Celsum," viii. 13; and elsewhere), but while Michael, as the guardian angel of Israel and high priest of heaven, is more occupied in heaven, Gabriel is the messenger of God, who executes God's will on earth. In heaven Gabriel is set over the serpents, and over paradise and the cherubim (Enoch, xx.). Each of the four divisions of the twelve tribes of Israel had its guardian angel, namely, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael respectively (Num. R. ii. 10). Michael and Gabriel defend Israel against its accusers (Yalḳ., Ḥadash, 67b), and pray in general for the human race and for Israel's deliverance from captivity ("Apoc. Pauli," in Lüken, l.c. p. 86, note 4; Jellinek, l.c. v. 127). They defend Israel when God orders the Temple to be burned (Yalḳ. ii., No. 1009). Gabriel destroys the bastards (Enoch, x. 9); with the other three arch-angels he seizes Semyaza and his companions and casts them into the fire (Enoch, liv. 6). He will make war upon the leviathan (B. B. 74b). He leads the soul into the body of the pious (Yalḳ., Ḥadash, 68b, No. 65).

Gabriel in Legend.

In addition to the cases mentioned above, Gabriel frequently acts as God's instrument. After appearing to Abraham with the other two angels, he went to destroy Sodom and save Lot (B. M. 86b). Satan (Samael), desiring that Tamar might be burned and that David might not be her descendant, removed the signs by means of which she afterward proved her innocence (Gen. xxxviii.); Gabriel having restored them (Soṭah 10b). Gabriel taught Joseph the seventy languages of the world (ib. 36b); he led Jochebed to Amram (Yalḳ., Ḥadash, s.v. , No. 60); when the handmaidens of Pharaoh's daughter wished to dissuade her from saving Moses, Gabriel struck them down (ib. 12b). When Solomon married a daughter of one of the Pharaohs Gabriel thrust a reed into the sea; mud gathered around it, and Rome was built on that site (Shab. 55b). He closed the gate behind the Shebna mentioned in Isa. xxii. 15 (Sanh. 26a), and slew Sennacherib (ib. 95b). Fortunately for Israel, he hindered Nebuchadnezzar from worshiping God (ib. 96a). Taking fire from the hand of the cherub, he threw it upon the Temple and city (Yoma 77a). He put an ink-mark upon the forehead of the pious, and one of blood upon that of the impious (Shab. 55a; comp. Ezek. ix. 4). He prevented Queen Vashti from appearing before Ahasuerus, and rewrote the story of the services rendered by Mordecai to the king, the record of which Shimshai had destroyed (Meg. 12b, 16a). He struck down the judges who refused to side with Simon b. Shetaḥ against King Alexander Jannai (Sanh. 19b).

The foregoing description of Gabriel shows no details that need be regarded as having been borrowed from Parseeism or other sources. Gabriel disputes like a scribe with Michael as to the stone indicated by "kadkod" (Isa. liv. 12; B. B. 75a; comp. Yalḳ., Ḥadash, 67a, No. 27: Michael and Gabriel are like the Shammaites and Hillelites). "Pray not to Michael nor to Gabriel, but to Me, and I will immediately answer" (Yer. Ber. 13a): in contrast to later Christianity, Judaism entirely forbade the worship of angels, though this view was modified in the Middle Ages. Gabriel also plays an important rôle on Basilidian gems, in the magic papyri, among the Christians, and among the Mohammedans. "In Christianity, as in Judaism, Gabriel stands nearest to Michael, but does not equal him in rank" (Lüken, "Michael," pp. 32, 111 et seq.). Gabriel still lives in the imagination of the Jewish, the Christian, and the Mohammedan people.

  • Gideon Brecher, Das Transcendentale, Magic, etc., Vienna, 1850;
  • Alex. Kohut, Ueber die Jüdische Angelologie und Dämonologie in Ihrer Abhängigkeit vom Parsismus, Leipsic, 1866;
  • Max Grünbaum, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sprach- und Sagenkunde, ed. F. Perles, Berlin, 1901;
  • Moïse Schwab, Vocabulaire de l'Angélologie, Paris, 1897 (in the Greek-Latin list the article "Gabriel" is missing);
  • A. Hilgenfeld, Die Jüdische Apokalyptik in Ihrer Geschichtlichen Entwickelung, Jena, 1857;
  • Gabriel bei Aphraates, in Monatsschrift, xlvl. 532;
  • Erwin Preuschen, Die Apocryphen, Gnostischen Adamsschriften, etc., pp. 22-73, Giessen, 1900;
  • S. Sycz, Ursprung und Wiedergahe der Biblischen Eigennamen im Koran, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1903;
  • W. Brandt, Die Mandäische Religion, Ihre Entwickelung und Geschichtliche Bedeutung, etc., p. 55, Leipsic, 1889;
  • C. Meyer, Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters, p. 172, Basel, 1884;
  • S. Curtiss, Primitive Semitic Religion, London, 1902.
S. S. L. B.—In Arabic Literature:

Gabriel, under the name of "Jibril" (for variants in spelling and vocalizations see Baiḍawi), is mentioned by name in only two passages of the Koran: suras ii. 91, 92; lxvi. 4. But according to the commentators, he is alluded to elsewhere in the words "Ruḥ al-Ḳuds" = "Holy Spirit" (ii. 81, 254; v. 109; vi. 104); in "al-Ruḥ al-Amin" = "Faithful Spirit" (xxvi. 193); in "Shadid al-Ḳuwwah" = "the Terrible in Power" (liii. 5); and in "Rasul Karim" = "Noble Messenger" (lxxxi. 19).According to Baiḍawi, the name signifies "servant of God." Gabriel revealed the Koran to Mohammed, and, according to Arabic writers (Bukhari, Baiḍawi, Zamakhshari), was therefore considered by the Jews to be their enemy, a conception resented by the Prophet in the declaration (ii. 91) that Gabriel's enemies are God's enemies. The three letters "alef," "lam," "mim," which precede many of the suras, are explained by Ibn 'Abbas (see Baiḍawi on sura ii. 1) as indicating that Gabriel is the medium of revelation between God and Mohammed, the "alef" standing for "Allah," the "lam" for "Gabriel," and the "mim" for "Mohammed." It was Gabriel who brought to Mohammed the command "Iḳra" (recite) as recorded in sura xcvi. For this reason the angel is regarded by the Arabs as the "keeper of the heavenly treasures [of revelation]". He is one of the "al-Muḳarrabin," the angels that approach God. With three other angels, he will survive on the last day, death overtaking all other creatures.

Messenger of God.

As "messenger of God" Gabriel assisted in the creation of Adam by gathering under divine orders all the kinds of clay from which the first man's body was fashioned. After their expulsion from paradise, it was he who took pity on Adam and Eve; bringing to them a small sack of wheat, he taught them how to sow and cultivate the grain. He also gave Adam an ox wherewith to plow (see 21st treatise of Ikhwan al-Ṣafa [ed. Dieterici], Ṭabari, and Ibn al-Athir). Ṭabari further ascribes to him the transmission to Adam of the knowledge of making fire by striking stone and iron together. When Abraham was to be thrown into the fierce fire prepared for him by Nimrod (in the Midrash it is a hot furnace: Gen. R. xxxviii.) Gabriel intervened. Abraham, who was shot into the air by a catapult or ballista, would have fallen into the flames had the angel not held him in mid air (Zamakhshari and Baiḍawi).

Visits Abraham.

As in Jewish accounts (Midr. Leḳaḥ Ṭob, ed. Buber, i. 82; B. M. 86b), Gabriel is in Arabic stories one of the three angels, Gabriel, Michael, and Israfil (the Jewish Uriel), that visited Abraham (comp. the commentaries to sura xi. 72). Ṭabari amplifies the account. Asked by the patriarch why they would not eat of the food placed before them, they declared that they must first be told the price of the meal. Abraham replied, "For this meal the price consists in your praising God," whereupon Gabriel nodded approvingly, saying, "In very truth this man deserves to be styled the friend of God." Commenting on sura xi. 83, the account of Lot and the angels that came to him at Sodom to announce its punishment, Baiḍawi and Zamakhshari state that Gabriel struck the Sodomites with his wing (described at some length by Zamakhshari) so that they lost their sight. With the same wing, they report, referring to the next verse (xi. 84), Gabriel lifted the whole city to such a height toward the sky that the barking of the dogs and the crowing of the cocks were distinctly heard by the dwellers in heaven, and then, turning it upside down, dashed it to the earth.

Abraham, according to Ibn al-Athir, had begged Gabriel to save the city if but ten believers (Mohammedans) were discovered among the inhabitants. Gabriel had promised Abraham at least to accomplish the escape of Lot and his family with the exception of his wife. But finding in Lot's admissions the confirmation of God's indictment of the city as corrupt to the core Gabriel achieved Sodom's ruin in the manner before stated (see also Abulfeda, "Historia Ante-Islamitica," p. 24). In the story of Moses' mission to Pharaoh (sura xxviii.) Gabriel is assigned an important part by Arabic commentators. Zamakhshari, reverting to the tower which the Egyptian king had built to ascend to the God of Moses (xxviii. 38), reports that Gabriel struck it with his wing and split it into three parts, one falling on Pharaoh's army, killing one thousand times one thousand men, another sinking in the sea, and the third crashing to earth in a westerly direction, so that none of the builders escaped alive. When Pharaoh was about to drown he would have professed his belief in the God of Moses, but Gabriel took a handful of mud from the sea and stopped his mouth (Ṭabari and Ibn al-Athir). Gabriel boasted later of this act of his while talking to Mohammed, alleging as his motive his fear lest God might have been moved to have pity on Pharaoh.

In suras ii. 60, 87; iv. 153; and vii. 170 God is said to have threatened to overturn the mountain upon the Israelites if they did not accept the Law (comp. 'Ab. Zarah 2b; Shab. 88a). The Arabic commentators expand the incident. Israel proved refractory, whereupon Gabriel was bidden to lift up the mountain and hold it suspended over the heads of the people. Gabriel appeared to Moses to inform him that Og the giant (see Giants) had been rendered helpless by being caught in his own trap (a huge stone), and encouraged him to slay the king (Ṭabari, "Chroniques," transl. Zotenberg, i. 391). Gabriel was also the messenger that announced to David, who would not be consoled on account of his sin, that God had forgiven him. It was Gabriel who gathered all the demons from their various haunts, bringing them to Solomon, their new master (Ḳazwini, i. 351 et seq.).

Intercedes for Isaac.

In another account (Al-Kisa'i's "Histories of the Prophets") the birds are assembled by Gabriel to do homage to Solomon. It was he who brought Solomon's magic signet-ring from paradise, with the inscription "La Allah illa Allah wa-Muḥammad Rasul Allah"; the ring had once belonged to Adam. This event took place on a Friday, the 27th day of Muḥarram. Gabriel's feats are also preserved in the popular literature of the Moriscos (see Grünbaum, "Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sprach- und Sagenkunde"). Gabriel acted as notary at the wedding of Adam and Eve (comp. Gen. R.). He induced Abraham to take Hagar to wife. He substituted the ram for Isaac on Moriah, and bade Abraham desist from his purpose of sacrificing his son. He announced to Sarah the birth of Isaac. Joseph, while in prison, was instructed by Gabriel that in the absence of water he might use sand to perform his ritual ablutions. In the "Legendas de José, Hijo de Jacob" (1888) Gabriel is mentioned as protecting Joseph when tempted by Potiphar's wife, the angel assuming the guise of Joseph's father. This occurs also in the works of Arabic authors (Ṭabari, Zamakhshari).Joseph's coat, according to Zamakhshari and Baiḍawi, was a present from Gabriel, who had woven it of celestial silk for Abraham when he was about to be thrown into the furnace; Abraham had given it to Isaac; Isaac to Jacob, who bound it like an amulet round Joseph's neck. Gabriel appeared before Joseph, unrolled it, and clothed him with it. Gabriel, by telling a little child in a cradle to arise and testify in Joseph's favor, established the latter's innocence when accused by Potiphar's wife. Joseph was in prison so long because, as Gabriel informed him, he had put more faith in men than in God. According to the commentators, Gabriel prevented Joseph from writing to his father because Jacob was to be punished for a former trifling sin (comp. B. K. 50a).

  • Zamakhshari, Al-Kashshaf, i. passim;
  • Ṭabari, Chroniques, French transl. of Zotenberg, i. 11 et seq.; ii. 29, 52, 324, 390;
  • Mas'udi, Les Prairies d'Or, ed. Barbier de Meynard, i. 51, 74, 84; iv. 23, 133, 449; vi. 40; vii. 52-55;
  • Abulfeda, Annales, ed. J. Reiske, i. 26, Copenhagen, 1789;
  • D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale;
  • W. Muir, Life of Mohammed, pp. 52, 78, London, 1877;
  • Rädiger, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section i., part 52, p. 70;
  • Hughes, Dictionary of Islam.
E. G. H.